What you need to know about ELD’s

My goodness, it is February already. I missed writing an article in January so please let me wish you all a Happy New Year and good health.

Well, on with this month’s article. Changes are all over the place in the trucking safety industry. The ELD rule has finally been released in the United States with implementation to be mandatory in December of 2017. That is for any units going to the USA. What if you are a Canada only carrier, or work only within your province?

In Ontario, the Ministry of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, gave support to Electronic Logging Devices (ELD’s) back in November of 2014. Ontario was the first government to come out in support of the devices. Since then the Federal Conservatives and Minister Lisa Rait also supported the use of electronic logs. There has since  been an election and the Liberals as of the time of this writing have not indicated their stance on the subject.

All of the provincial trucking associations seem to be supporting the initiative and the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) has been a very vocal supporter, as well as the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA).  Whether you agree with ELD’s or not, I believe, is not important. What does matter is that we stay competitive and Canada is aligned with the United States of America.

So, what do drivers’ think about ELD’s? I have been fortunate enough to conduct several driver training sessions since the release of the ELD rule. These meetings have all been with smaller carriers and their drivers. When the topic of the new ELD rule comes up they always express their opinion and overwhelmingly the drivers are afraid. Yes, afraid. As one driver put it “How am I going to recover the hours when a shipper holds me up for 4 to 6 hours”? So that means that right now, the driver gets creative with the logbook so he/she is able to drive and still make the money that she/he needs to support their family. It is not fair… not fair at all; but this is still happening every day to our industry.

How will we adapt to the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule? I believe in the short term that it will be painful!  Very disruptive and painful. And I’m one of the people that view ELD’s as a great move forward as it is a maturing of sorts for our industry. No longer will we be encouraging the drivers’ to break the law and drive while fatigued. But as I said earlier, in the short term, it will cause pain.

The shippers, I believe, will not change until they have to. And they will not change until some of them have paid out large sums of money in court settlements. Many shippers are responsible and currently understand their responsibilities. However, there are still many shippers that ship based on the lowest cost and that is all that matters to them. It is these shippers that need to change and these shippers are the ones that I’m talking about.

Currently a driver shows up on time and sometimes is held up at the shippers for several hours. The shipper fails to reschedule the delivery time and quietly (through silence and lack of action on the shippers part) implies that the driver should still make the delivery on time. It will be this type of “lack of action” that a smart lawyer will jump on and they will prove in court that a shipper should be held at least partially responsible for the losses that have been incurred. Since many shippers have much more to lose then a small trucking company has to lose, through a legal term called “Joint and Several Legal Liability”, the shipper may pay a great deal more money than the trucking company. Only after the shipping community pays out millions of dollars or more, will many shippers wake up and realize that they have a responsibility to make sure that they do everything that a responsible person in their shoes would do.

So how long will this take after the new ELD rules come into existence? I think 2 or 3 years after the mandate to implement takes place. (Current implementation is scheduled for December, 2017, but there appears to be a few court challenges to the new rule on the horizon). I believe that it will take a few years for the shippers to see the monies that they are needlessly spending in defense costs and payouts, before some of them realize that it is less expensive to ship the goods within the law and without implying to a driver that the delivery needs to get to its destination at any cost.

I do think that the next few years will be very interesting as we all adapt to the changes that Electronic Logging Devices will bring to our industry.

Stay safe.

Chris Harris
Top Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.